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OpenSolaris takes first steps

The only things Sun lacked yesterday were organ music and peanuts as the company officially launched "opening day" for the OpenSolaris project.

Forget the naysaying bloggers and the talk radio callers, it was opening day for Sun Solaris yesterday, and if the attitudes of company brass were any indication, opening up the source code was looking like nothing short of a home run.

During OpenSolaris' maiden voyage into open source waters, senior executives and developers like Claire Giordano and Tim Marsland were on hand to ensure that what might be the most important period in the lifecycle of Solaris went smoothly.

The open source Solaris 10 features all the source code for the core operating system, networking, system libraries and commands, and will follow an open software development model.

Even Sun president and chief operating officer (COO) Jonathan Schwartz weighed in during a brief conference call with the press -- as well on his weblog -- to say that he had stepped back to admire a new and lasting chapter in Internet history -- one that he believes will occur for OpenSolaris.

"Solaris 'opening day' is just that, a first step," Schwartz said.

To last, however, Sun will have to overcome several industry indicators that have been mixed to date.

Sun gained points from analysts in the days preceding "opening day" for opening up code for popular Solaris 10 features like DTrace and containers, as well as for recognizing support for cost-effective Intel/x86 architectures.

Burton Group vice president Gary Hein said companies considering Linux should probably give Solaris 10 a serious look before they decide to begin any migration plans.

Slow points in the road can be attributed to a distinctly and expectedly adverse Linux community headed by vendors like IBM, Red Hat Inc. and Novell Inc., which have been attempting to siphon away Solaris 9 customers. Groups like the Sageza Group Inc. have Sun losing Solaris customers to Linux over the past several years.

Sun has also received substantial amounts of flak from the open source community for not going the GPL route with its licensing scheme. Instead, Sun is using the CDDL license, which is similar to the Mozilla Public License, but will not result in any "cross pollination" of Solaris and the Linux distributions.

"There are lots of things under OpenSolaris that Sun does not have the right to release, so they really could not release the operating system as GPL," Hein explained in his analysis of Solaris 10.

However, Giordano, the senior manager of OpenSolaris, said, "Today we are really focused on [the OpenSolaris] community. We have received tremendous interest … people are very interested in Solaris technology, and are very interested in open source, so to them this is a marriage made in heaven."

Giordano dismissed critics who said the Solaris community went beyond "just developers" in becoming open source, and now includes users, those who do deployments, and computer science students and university leaders who are "passionate" about technology.

"We encourage you to go join the discussion groups, join the conversation; there is a lot of information on how to contribute [to the OpenSolaris community]," she said.


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In fact, Giordano said, since the OpenSolaris pilot program began in September 2004, 145 external members have joined the community.

What that community will develop, and whether or not it has the potential to top the work of the 1,000 developers currently employed by Sun, remains to be seen, but that did not discourage Tim Marsland, distinguished engineer and chief technology officer for Solaris.

"I would be disappointed if I could actually predict the things that will happen [with OpenSolaris]," Marsland said.

Marsland also dismissed any concern on Sun's part that outside developers would be intimidated by its talented crop of internal developers.

"I wouldn't call [external developers] competitors ... the original authors of the code are writing things that are designed to embrace open development," Marsland said.

It was apparent that educational intuitions would play a major role in the future of Solaris, with Schwartz mentioning examples where university professors would take components of Solaris 10, like the freely available DTrace, and use it to teach students about debugging and analysis performance.

Marsland said the containers component of Solaris 10 has already been deployed in some classrooms as a virtual environment.

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